An ever-increasing number of businesses are showing their true colors this Pride month. Rhode Islanders sent Options screenshots of text messages they received from an out-of-state coffee company attacking Pride events along with the coupon code “antipride.”
On June 9, readers sent Options Magazine screenshots of a mass text message from a coffee company with the message “Pride Month Is For Predators … Use code ‘ANTIPRIDE’ for 20% off your entire order !” As of publication, Options was unable to determine the target audience of the mass text as no readers who forwarded the image had stated they had ever purchased products from the business.
Options was able to confirm the message was indeed sent by the coffee company and while the coupon code did not work on the day advertised, the code did begin working on June 10. Options also uncovered that the company had been employing anti-Pride and anti-LGBTQ messaging on its Instagram since at least April.
The company’s anti-Pride spam text message comes after multiple major corporations have dropped or curbed their support for the LGBTQ community: On May 24, Target made a statement that it was pulling Pride products from the front of certain locations. Target did not disclose in the statement that it had also cut ties with a Transgender designer. On, May 18, ESPN reported the Los Angeles Dodgers disinvited the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an LGBTQ charity group that dresses in an absurdist but not sexually suggestive style of drag, from the baseball company's so-called Pride Night – and reinvited the group five days later. In April, Anheuser-Busch launched and then dropped a partnership with openly Transgender social media influencer Dylan Mulvaney. Anheuser-Busch’s CEO Brendan Whitworth apologized to the public for sending Mulvaney personalized beer cans, claiming it was a divisive action on the company’s part.
Additional criticism has been thrown at other companies that have more quietly pulled back on support for LGBTQ people: Microsoft's Xbox brand has been accused of removing mentions of Pride just four days after first posting messages at the start of June and the same article reported that Lego, Miller Lite, and Kohl's – companies that had made Pride statements as recently as June 2022 – had all either removed specific references to LGBTQ people or not made any posts about Pride this year at all.
The coffee company's text message was more direct than other companies' statements to date. Out Rhode Island State Senator Sam Bell told Options Magazine that the coffee company’s actions were “absolutely appalling bigotry” and “that kind of disgusting hate has no place in Rhode Island.”
A review of the company’s Instagram found numerous anti-LGBTQ messages. Statements included “those who can’t raise children have no choice but to infiltrate and groom them … That is the truth behind pride month” and images of a man and a woman holding up an umbrella to block a rainbow with two children underneath. Another image on the account claims LGBTQ stands for let’s get Biden to quit. The account posted a video that it alleged was from Los Angeles, CA of a pride event of a man in very little clothing being lightly smacked with the words "THIS is what you're proud of?? THIS is what you want us to support?! disgusting."
The company in question, Frontier Coffee Company, is based in Gatlinburg, TN. While Options found multiple anti-LGBTQ references on the company’s social media, its store website –– where customers can purchase products –– was absent of anti-LGBTQ messaging.
Ephriam Daniel Melmer, the co-host of the Options podcast Providence Vibes, stated this meant the company was afraid of turning off customers: “The fact that they would keep their anti-LGBTQ statements off their website shows they know it would cost them business. For all their posturing about being unapologetic defenders of so-called family values, they don’t want to risk losing money. Otherwise, why would they hide it?”
According to a statement first reported by The Young Turks (TYT) on March 26, the company seemed to deliberately put its anti-LGBTQ messaging solely on its social media until the spam text blast on June 9. TYT reported that the company posted a video about how the business didn’t appreciate the response its content had received up to that time. In the video, a Frontier Coffee spokesperson downplayed the company’s social media and described it as “a meme page that sometimes sells coffee” and claimed the content posted was “all in good fun.”
If you are a Rhode Islander who has received anti-LGBTQ email blasts, or spam text messages from a business or corporation, please email email@example.com.